I feel like I started saying I was taking a break from modeling at the beginning of fall, and then like, every other model in my area was also saying they were taking a break, but I never told anyone, so it’s funny how it’s like we all got burned out together.
I say “break” because I don’t fully consider what I do to be modeling. Sure, I’ve walked in a show in NYFW – mind you, it was not actually a part of NYFW: The Shows. I didn’t walk for like, Marc Jacobs. But I did walk for a sold out event in Times Square.
I just don’t call myself a model. I’ll say “freelance model”, because that makes more sense. I do a lot of local fashion shows in my city and work with a tonnnn of local photographers both home in NY and in Vermont. Buuutt, I don’t get paid for any modeling I do, so I don’t consider myself a true model. I’ve gotten paid maybe, three times in two years? That sounds about right. It’s nothing more than an intense passion. I love modeling. Done and done.
NYFW was definitely a highlight of my ‘modeling’ career thus far, but also what made me start to rethink how I want to model. If you haven’t read my “Meet Emma” post, I briefly go into this and show some of my work from over the summer.
A little background: when I was just entering my teens, I did Barbizon modeling “school.” This was SO much fun for me. I learned how to do my makeup here. I also started to learn how to walk and pose. I looooved going to Barbizon. I wanted to be a Victoria’s Secret Model. Yes, at the age of like, 11. I was so sad when it had to end. There were ways I could have taken it further, but the cost to do so was out of the picture for me. Then middle school turned into high school and as life goes, we move on, we find different passions. Ironically, I decided to take up photography. I begged my parents for a nice camera for Christmas when I was 15. They got me a Canon Rebel T2i, which at the time was a really good camera. For me personally, it still is, I still have it and use it often – but I’m also not behind the lens anymore.
Very quickly, and I mean, VERY quickly.. I learned the camera had a self timer and my parents had even gotten me a remote. If you look back on all my old photos which are hidden somewhere in my hardrive and Tumblr… I was my main subject. I loved getting dolled up and taking photos of myself. This was also when Tumblr was in and I was definitely making my way to Tumblr fame. I had over 2k followers which at the time was a lot and people used to recognize me in public and ask if I was ‘Emma from Tumblr’ or ‘cat-core’. It was a great time. Fantastic for my ego ****alllll the sarcasm****. Loved my Tumblr fame, lmao.
I was a scene queen, no doubt. My big hair and dark eyeshadow had my popularity escalating on Tumblr and social media in general. Slowly, the neon shoes and Ninja Turtle bracelet’s started coming off and I started wearing skirts and dresses again. Nothing changed with my photography habits, I just wanted to change my style. The nose ring came out, and my size 7/16ths plugs in my ears closed up and healed. I never got a tattoo. I used to want them deseperately, but my mom always said to wait because my mind would change, she was right.
I remained my best photo subject. I took a photography class and got into film for a bit. That was tricky because I couldn’t pose for myself, but other students in the class would ask me to pose for them. When we moved into digital work, I was once again my own subject for every project. I started winning awards for my work, which was so interesting to me because it was just my own face. I started to think, well maybe I should try modeling again?
Flash forward – I graduated high school, went to college, and never gave two thoughts about pursuing modeling. Two years ago is when I finally did because in the course of like, a week, I had three or more people tell me I should model. I figured, “sure what the hell?” and instantly applied online to places like IMG and Wilhelmina and Ford. I didn’t expect to hear back, and I never did, until recently.
I built my portfolio over the past year and a half with fake red hair. I got in contact with an agent from one of those top agencies (I am not going to say which, just for privacy reasons), and they wanted more. More photos. More smiling. More sporty. More, more, MORE! I probably spent over $800 redoing my portfolio not just once, but three times over the summer. They kept saying “you’re not ready yet, but keep sending photos.” Now I totally understand that that’s the industry. That’s the business. It’s cutthroat. But that’s not my business. I became broke and tired. Mind you, the red hair they liked cost me $90-$120 a month at a cheapishh hair salon in my area. The more I did photos, the more confident I became in my abilities. Each time the agency rejected me, it motivated me to do better. Be better. I never once looked at another model and thought I needed to be better than her. There’s so many beautiful girls. I needed to be better than myself.
I had plans to move to New York City. I wasn’t sure when. I switched college degrees to something I could do online to support living in Vermont and moving to New York. I’m not to go too much into this because I already did in the “Meet Emma” post linked above. I’m back home in Syracuse now and finally transferring to the school of my FIRST choice and going back for my teaching degree because dropping out of that was a mistake, for sure.
But why am I taking a “break”? Hang on, I’m getting there. If you talk to any English major we all need to give a novel before getting to our main point.
I met a photographer, I won’t say who, but he was not local. He found me online and wanted to work with me. I did, got paid, the shoot was fine, and all was well. Right? Well he sort of acted like he wanted to be my friend and had all this experience working with new models and helping them build their portfolio. I was like, “sweet.”
He basically told me if I want to go anywhere with modeling I needed to change my hair color back to my natural dark brown, as it was still red at this time. This is NOT why I changed my hair back to it. This was months ago. Actually, that agency interested in me liked the red. This sparked a ton of anxiety for me because I loved the red. So, I took his advice and called nearly every agency that would have a conversation with me and asked about my hair. They all said the same thing, “if we don’t like your hair, we’ll change it.” Ok – So why would I need to change it now? I went back to the photographer to tell him about it and something switched. I flipped a switch. He went OFFFFFFFFF on me. And I mean like, yelling at me over the phone. “You’re never going to be a model” “You may as well stick to commerical modeling because that’s all you’ll ever get living in bumfuck Vermont” “You have a unique look. It’s interesting. You’re pretty, but you have an interesting look, and that can be used against you” I was like FUUCKK dude, like, chill??
Didn’t phase me at all. Actually it motivated me to prove him wrong. And in a way, I did. I had that agency interested in me with my red hair and still made it into NYFW You can see a photo from that here. For me, that’s good enough of a slap in the face.
So now to the main point. I moved back home to Syracuse to save money and pursue modeling. Connor and I were NOT doing well at this time. We had been fighting a lot because of how much I did not want to stay living in Vermont, and obviously me moving back home was hard on both of us. It definitely took a toll on our relationship. We were sort of “broken up” during the time of NYFW, but he had already planned to bring me to the event and already had his ticket. That trip was also were we were able to rekindle our relationship and I knew we were going to work through things.
As our relationship got better, my goals started to change. Did I internally believe that photographer when he said I’d never get anywhere living in Vermont? Yes, I knew he was right. But, that also doesn’t make Syracuse much better. I also started to think more about modeling and living in New York. Could Connor come with me? Would we have the finances to support? If I moved alone, how long before he’d be able to join me?
We started looking into the general cost of living of New York. We had been for awhile, but started looking more seriously into it. The cost of rent alone in New York definitely would have ended up putting our tiny house dreams on hold. Do I really want to risk that? “Yes,” I thought. “I will live in New York.”
When I graduated high school, my nana wrote me a letter. My nana helped raise me side by side with my mom. We were always very close. Her unexpected death in 2016 has left an aching pain and hole in my chest that will never heal. Her letter is framed in a setting that looks like a bunch of old typewriter keys, which was the theme of my graduation party. I was going to be an English Lit. major – what do you expect??? Anyway – she framed the letter and gave it to me as a gift. Writing letters to each other was something we always did and held onto throughout my teens. She had moved to Florida so it was just a way to stay in touch. She was a writer as well, so it made sense. Anyway – her framed letter is on my vanity where I do my makeup. I do not read it often because I’ll choke up and cry – but one day during the fall, I was getting ready and I glanced over to it. I didn’t read it from start to finish, I actually just focused on the middle paragraph and the first sentence I saw that she wrote said, “Place your values first and your desires second, as they will change over time.”
It hit me like a brick. What were my values? What were my desires? I really didn’t know. I’m still trying to come up with concrete answers. I instantly thought of modeling and my desire to move to the city.
Values, hmm. Well, my health, Connor, my family, my fitness, and financial stability I suppose. Desires? To be a VS model… Live in New York… get signed by a top agency… But where does that put Connor? I’m terrified of airplanes. If I became a model, I’d have to travel like there’s no tomorrow.
It hit me. Did I really want to risk everything I have to move to New York, and maybe make it as a model? No, I really don’t. I’d love to live in New York, but I realized I don’t have that drive. You know that old fashioned quote, “you have to get uncomfortable to be comfortable” or “you don’t grow in your comfort zone” ?? Something like that. Yeah & you also don’t grow in major financial debt and starving your way through NYC. At least that’s my mindset. You always hear about the success stories of people who risk it all and move to a big city, lose everything, then make it big. You never hear about the people who risk it all and don’t.
That’s not something I have the drive to do. Maybe if I were like, five inches taller. I’m 5’5 and a half barefoot. Like, good luck.
I also started reading more stories about Victoria’s Secret beyond what their models posted on Instagram. I had no idea of the body shaming and inequality of the trans & LGBTQ community. I was blinded by my childhood dream of working for them. After seeing this information, I have no desire to work for that company. Could I even without the height? I have no idea, but I no longer care to find out.
Connor and I have a dream of building a tiny house on wheels. We’ve had this since we started dating. That’s a dream I value and I’m willing to put work towards. But where does that leave my intense passion for modeling? I still want to do it, just not in the way I thought I did.
I’m still trying to figure that out in detail, but the idea is simple: this blog. I can still model, but on my terms. I don’t need to live in New York, I can do it anywhere and post it here or my Instagram. I don’t need to work with asshole photographers, I can work with my friends in my area, or have Connor take pictures of me. This is the balance I have found to still execute my passion – but keeping my values in check.
So… I’m not really taking a break from modeling. I’m altering my approach to it. I’m going back to just working with my locals and focussing on this blog, my masters degree, and most importantly, my relationship with Connor (& our tiny house!) . Which is really where I’m the most happy anyway. The local fashion shows I am taking a break from. They are LONG ass days (like, 10 hours) without pay and I never even like the photos I get after. I’ll still do them occasionally, but only select ones. The images below are from my favorite show I’ve done walking for Laura Marino at her fashion event “The Magical World of Laura Marino” in May of 2019.
So there you have it. This was a very long and personal post, but I feel like it was necessary. People always think that I get paid for what I do and that’s just not the case. I model because it is an intense and passionate hobby that I’ve had since preteens. & through my experiences, I’ve realized that’s the best place to leave it. Not to try to make it into a full career. But I am always itching to get creative and do photoshoots. I prefer them over runway.
So, that being said… who want’s to shoot this weekend?